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Timeless Architecture in Old Hollywood

At Jul 01, 2016

The key to the iconic homes of Beverly Hills in the 20’s and 30’s was not how large the home was or how many acres it encompassed. Instead, the significant detail was the stunning architecture, provided by some of the top designers in the era that marked a home as a step above the rest. Whether a homeowner was looking for something extravagant or a subtler, classic look, finding the right architect meant everything.

When banker, Robert Rogers, decided to purchase land on the corner of Lexington Road and North Crescent Drive, he knew he wanted to stand out among the young Hollywood homeowners in the area. He wanted an elegant home that mirrored the more conservative lifestyle of him and his wife Josephine. He began looking for an architect who could accurately portray his vision for his new estate and found Robert Farquhar, a well-educated designer who studied at Harvard, MIT and the Ecole de Beaux Arts Academy in Paris.

Robert and Josephine were impressed with Farquhar’s use of Spanish, Italian and French styles of architecture for residential homes and also his work in commercial buildings such as the California Club and the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library. The building of the Rogers estate began in 1926 and ended in 1927 with a total cost of $175,000. The home was built to withstand the devastating earthquakes that often shook California, with its infrastructure built of sturdy steel beams and the exterior sporting a stucco façade, massive stone entryway and tiled roof. The home was exactly what Robert and Josephine had wanted and they were extremely happy with the beautiful home and its surrounding landscape and orchard.

After Josephine’s untimely death in 1931, the home was sold to the infamous Harold McCormick of Chicago, who purchased the estate as a summer home in 1938. McCormick was a divorcee and quite the ladies’ man in his younger days, but at this time in his life he was ready to settle down with his third wife. He hired the original architect, Farquhar, to add an elevator to the main house and to also build new garages and servants’ quarters on the property. Just a few years later, McCormick passed away and the home was sold to Lewis and Dorothy Rosenstiel of Cincinnati, Ohio and then again to one of the most brash and infuriating Hollywood moguls, Harry Cohn.

Harry and his wife Joan were more social and loved to entertain and have parties. They decided to once again hire Farquhar to design a projection room and a bath house so their guests would have the best in comfort and entertaining. When Harry died, Joan decided to stay in the home that she loved on Crescent Drive and remained for another twenty years. While the house had many add-ons, the use of Farquhar for each new addition kept the home looking much the same as the original. The timeless elegance of the home is still present today. The next time you are in the Beverly Hills area, you can drive by and see the home still seated at the corner of Lexington Road and North Crescent Drive.

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David Kramer – Top Real Estate Agent in Beverly Hills California – BUSINESS INNOVATORS

At Jun 23, 2016

David Kramer – Top Real Estate Agent in Beverly Hills California

David is a real estate agent unlike any other when it comes to buying and selling luxury properties in the Los Angeles and Beverly Hills areas. With over 20 years of experience in representing buyers and sellers of high-end estates throughout the area, he has the skills and knowledge to obtain the results his clients are looking for, while maintaining the highest standards of integrity, confidentiality and professionalism.


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Benedict Canyon Drive Estate

At Jun 01, 2016

As Southern California grows, the once expansive estates of the past are becoming less common. Instead, these massive grounds are being divided into individual lots to house many families, not just one. For some, this is great news, but for others, it means the end to a beautiful era filled with grandeur and extravagance. The home featured in this month’s article is the prime example of an estate that has succumbed to the demand of smaller, more affordable real estate.

In the twenties, many millionaires had made their money in some other type of business besides the film industry. This is true for the first owner of the Benedict Canyon Drive estate, Charles Boldt. Boldt had made his money back east in the glass manufacturing trade and decided that Southern California would be the perfect spot to create a winter home for himself and his wife, Hilda. His first look at Benedict Canyon Drive was not anything like the end result. The road was made completely of dirt and the surrounding countryside filled with ranch land and citrus groves. Boldt could immediately see the potential in this stunning piece of land and purchased 12 acres for a sum of $20,000 dollars.

Boldt hired famous architect, Elmer Grey and his partner Myron Hunt, to design and construct not only the main house, but also a gardener’s cottage, a gatehouse and a garage with a chauffer’s quarters. The designers took six months to devise a blueprint for a massive 6,000 square foot main residence that would resemble an English-Elizabeth style home, with an impressive curb appeal that included cement plastered walls on the first floor and timbered walls on the second story, spotlighting the gables that jutted out from the attic windows.

The two-story home had over 20 rooms, and the front entrance was a spectacular scene. Once entering through the front door, you entered into a stunning two floor hall that showed the exposed beams of oak that supported the roof of the house. The walls were paneled in rich oak and mahogany throughout the living room, dining room and library. While the house was definitely impressive, so were the grounds. The Benedict Canyon Drive estate was one of the first in its time to have a swimming pool and it also had tennis courts and professional landscaping.

The Boldts decided to move on a short two years later and sold their home to copper miner Harvey Mudd and his wife Mildred. This couple loved the look and feel of the home but wanted to add more impressive gardens, so the couple hired landscape artist Edward Huntsman-Trout to turn 15 acres of the estate into a garden oasis. Mudd spent much time and money making his gardens into a spectacular showpiece, and in 1934, all his hard work paid off when his gardens won a prestigious award from the Garden Clubs of America. In the 1960’s, after three decades as the showstopper on Benedict Canyon Drive, the Mudd family sold the majority of their land to developers, only keeping a small lot as the grounds for the home. Today, the original mansion has been restored by new owners and is just a small reminder of the luxury lost in Old Hollywood homes.

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John Barrymore’s Longtime Beverly Hills Home Relists for $29.95 Million – WSJ

At May 27, 2016

Known as Bella Vista, the estate had been owned since the 1990s by ‘Top Gun’ director Tony Scott

The longtime home of early Hollywood actor John Barrymore is returning to market for $29.95 million.

The longtime home of early Hollywood actor John Barrymore is returning to market for $29.95 million.

The Spanish-style estate had been owned since the 1990s by “Top Gun” director Tony Scott, who died in 2012 at age 68. His widow, Donna, first listed the Beverly Hills home and several nearby vacant parcels in September 2015 with Westside Estate Agency for $42.5 million, then took it off the market in December. The house—but not the vacant parcels—is now returning to market with David Kramer of Hilton & Hyland.

Actor John Barrymore lived in the home until he died in the 1940s.
Actor John Barrymore lived in the home until he died in the 1940s. PHOTO: HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES


Known as Bella Vista, the house was built in the 1920s and purchased several years later by Mr. Barrymore. The eccentric actor lived there until he died in the 1940s, according to historian Gregory Mank, author of “Hollywood’s Hellfire Club.” Mr. Barrymore added a number of structures to the property, including an aviary where he kept a pet vulture, Mr. Mank said.

The five-bedroom main house measures approximately 10,000 square feet and contains a pub for entertaining, Mr. Kramer said. Above the master suite, there is a hidden room that can only be accessed by a ladder. There are two guesthouses on the grounds, which span about 1½ acres and include a pool, a koi pond and an outdoor fireplace.

Mr. Scott purchased the property in 1992 for $279,545, according to public records. The Scotts connected the aviary to the main house and turned it into a two-story living space with a kitchen and bedroom on each floor. “We wanted to create separate living areas for our twin boys to have when they grew older,” Ms. Scott wrote in an email. They also added a four-car subterranean garage for Mr. Scott’s vintage Porsche and motorcycle collection.

Write to Candace Taylor at Candace.Taylor@wsj.com

Visit the website: 1500Seabright.com

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Foothills Road Estate – The Amazing Pre-World War II Mansion

At May 02, 2016

Before sound and color dominated the silver screen, there were the stars of the silent movie. Extraordinary individuals who could bring to life a story with just their actions and expressions. One such starlet during the silent film era, Ruth Clifford, excelled above the rest. At the tender age of fifteen, Clifford got her first role as an extra for a local film and her career skyrocketed from there. She landed her first starring role in the Universal film The Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin that became an instant success. Her career continued in western films until she was cast as the first love of Abraham Lincoln in the 1924 critically acclaimed film The Dramatic Life of Abraham Lincoln. This role took her to a new level of stardom and her fame rose drastically.

Clifford soon met and married the vice president of the State Bank of Beverly Hills, James Cornelius. In 1925, the couple moved into their new home, located on Foothill Road. Not your average Beverly Hills home, the estate located on the south end of the prestigious Sunset Boulevard intrigued its star-studded neighbors. The mansion was the only home to be built in the area before World War II and was much larger than the neighboring homes. The estate was also situated on a one-acre double lot, something unheard of on the lesser-populated south side of Sunset Boulevard.

There was added mystery to the home thanks to Clifford and Cornelius. While the social norm during the Old Hollywood Era was to host extravagant parties, the owners of this massive Spanish-Moorish residence chose to remain more private, creating gossip and wonderment amongst the neighbors. The unusualness of the estate continued with the size and style of the home with its hidden front entryway, wrought-iron balconies and rumored hidden underground tunnels. The striking architecture of the home includes thick stucco walls, enormous chimneys, soaring windows, and cast-iron embellishments. After the home was sold, the rumors of underground rooms and tunnels was confirmed and it was stated that there was as much square footage underground as there was above ground.

While Clifford was a notable icon during her time in Hollywood, she was not the only nor the most famous person to live in the Foothills Road residence. As Clifford’s marriage became rocky, the couple began a series of break-ups and reconciliations. During their times of separation, the home was rented out by other Hollywood actors, including Conrad Veidt. In 1934, their tumultuous relationship finally ended, leading the way for Irving Mills, an early pop culture musician, to sweep in and purchase the home in the 1940’s. During the time Mills lived in the Foothills Road estate, he discovered piano player Duke Ellington and the Kentucky Club Orchestra, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller. In the 1950’s, Mills sold his home to an unknown family who currently occupies this historic mansion as a private residence. The new owners keep the home in pristine condition, preserving the grandeur of the 1920’s and providing a legacy for generations to come.

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Harry Lombard and the magnificent Grayhall Estate

At Mar 25, 2016

During the early years in Beverly Hills, most of the new homebuilders chose to stay centrally located around the Beverly Hills Hotel, keeping within just a few blocks of the iconic landmark. Few dared to branch out into the more “rustic” areas where the land was still used for ranching and growing citrus trees. Things changed in 1916, when an adventurous banker from Boston left his home in Massachusetts to begin a new venture as a real estate investor in Los Angeles. He began his life in Los Angeles by turning part of this unpopulated pastoral land into a magnificent 15-acre estate. The man was Harry D. Lombard, and the estate was beautifully named “The Grayhall Estate.”

The focal point of the Grayhall Estate was the superbly designed two-story mansion that was Lombard’s home. He chose two ambitious designers, Sumner P. Hunt and Silas Burns, to produce a home that was both elegant and comfortable. Grayhall got its name from the exquisite gray stone façade that blended with the soil so well that it looked like the home had grown from the earth itself. Lombard loved the view that he could get from his property of the ocean, mountains and the city of Beverly Hills, so he chose large plate-glass windows so he could look out over these areas in different parts of the home. Adding on a spoon-shaped swimming pool and tennis courts to the already beautiful gardens completed the Grayhall Estate.

In 1918, Grayhall became the home of its most famous tenant, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. The movie star leased the Grayhall Estate so he would have a secret place to meet his lover, Mary Pickford, who was still married at the time. Although he spent most of his time on movie sets or sneaking around with Mary, Douglas also showed his support to the American efforts in World War I. He turned the land surrounding Grayhall into a carnival where attendees showed their support of America by purchasing $50 Liberty Bonds. This was not your ordinary carnival. Fairbanks enlisted the help of many of his famous friends that gave performances in areas such as wrestling, aeronautical tricks and bull riding done by Douglas himself. Guests could mingle with upcoming stars and starlets, stuntmen and star athletes.

Fairbanks had only leased the Grayhall Estate for one year, and during that time he fell in love with the beautiful piece of property across the road. This 14-acre piece of property and hunting lodge was owned by Lee A. Phillips who sold out to Fairbanks in 1919. After the departure of Fairbanks, Grayhall was sold to Silsby and Carolyn Spalding. Carolyn was the daughter of one of Beverly Hills’ founders, Charles Confield. Her husband, Silsby, became mayor of Beverly Hills in 1922 and held that office until 1929. The couple wanted to expand their home so they brought in the original designers used by Lombard to add on 22,000 square feet of living space including 9 bedrooms, 20 bathrooms and hidden passageways throughout the home.

The Spaldings also wanted more land, so they purchased an additional 37 acres to increase the estate to 52 acres. Grayhall was the largest estate in the area until the creation of the Greystone Estate on Doheny Road. After Silsby died in 1949, Carolyn sold all they had amassed except two acres of the land and the house. Land developers turned their estate into the Beverly Hills Park Estates and began building new houses all around Grayhall. The home still remains today and is seen as a historical landmark of the old Hollywood era.

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Harry and Virginia Robinson Home

At Feb 26, 2016

It is a truly rare and extraordinary experience to be able to walk into a home, turn back the hands of time and see the beauty and wonderment of a bygone era. When you visit The Virginia Robinson Gardens, located on Elden Way in the prestigious Beverly Hills community in Los Angeles, California, you are transported back to 1911, when Beverly Hills was a growing neighborhood of affluent families. The historical gardens and museum began as the estate of Harry and Virginia Robinson. Harry was the president of W. Robinson Company, a prestigious department store in Los Angeles.

The Robinsons made the short trek from Los Angeles to Beverly Hills to start a new life in February of 1911. They purchased a piece of property with a dramatic view of the Pacific at the end of Elden Way and began building what would be their forever home. Harry and Virginia were very different from the typical socialites during this era. Instead of a massive, showpiece home, the couple chose to build a home where they could live comfortably while doing all the things they loved. They also decided to go with an amateur architect, Nathaniel Dryden, to build their home. Dryden, who was Virginia’s father, had designed homes for other family members and wanted to do this grand gesture for his daughter and son-in-law.

The Mediterranean-style home was one-story with 12 rooms including a library, large bedroom suite for Harry and Virginia, a large kitchen and staff quarters. Each room in the home featured stunning views of the surrounding grounds and gardens. The estimated cost of building the home in 1911 was $25,000. The Robinsons preferred the roles of host and hostess over going to parties as a guest, loved sports such as tennis and swimming and spent their free time collecting exotic plants and animals for their gardens. They turned their estate into an entertainment paradise, including his and hers tennis courts and a new pool with a magnificent Italian Renaissance-inspired pool pavilion that sat at the far end of their house. Architect William Richards used the Villa Pisani in Stra, Italy to give him ideas for the dramatic pavilion.

Almost as amazing as the home itself was the landscape surrounding the home. The pair loved their gardens and spent their time and resources making their estate into a garden oasis. During their travels overseas, they would pick up exotic seeds and plants to add to their gardens. The estate became well known for growing practically every exotic, rare fruit imaginable. Virginia also kept what she called a “Kitchen Garden,” where she grew a variety of vegetables all year long. The Robinson’s collection of palm trees, which are still present today, was located on a three-acre lot along the eastern slope of the property that provided the couple and their friends a private area where they could walk and soak up the California sun without interruption. The Robinsons called it “The Tropical King Palm Garden” and it is still one of the finest gardens in the United States.

In 1932, Harry succumbed to illness and passed away. Virginia kept the home and continued on with her love of gardening and entertaining. Sometime during the 1960’s, the Robinson estate shrunk from 15 acres to the current six and a half acres for reasons unknown. Virginia donated her beloved gardens and the home to the County of Los Angeles to be made into a botanical garden and museum after her death. In 1977, Virginia died at the age of 99, and in 1981, the county opened the Virginia Robinson Gardens to guests. The Robinson’s legacy continues today, and through their donation, many people can enjoy a glimpse of Beverly Hills in its glory days.

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Some perspective on how real estate dwarfs the rest of the asset universe – MARKETWATCH

At Jan 29, 2016



By Shawn Langlois
Published: Jan 25, 2016 2:23 p.m. ET


The total value of all developed real estate on the planet reached a whopping $217 trillion in 2015, according to a new report released on Monday by U.K.-based real estate adviser Savills.

For some perspective, that amounts to 2.7 times the world’s GDP and about 60% of all mainstream assets, the analysis shows. Furthermore, Yolanda Barnes, who leads Savills research team, said the total value eclipses all the gold ever mined ($6 trillion) by a factor of 36 to 1.

“The value of global real estate exceeds – by almost a third – the total value of all globally traded equities and securitised debt instruments put together and this highlights the important role that real estate plays in economies world-wide,” she said. “Real estate is the pre-eminent asset class which will be most impacted by global monetary conditions and investment activity and which, in turn, has the power to most impact national and international economies.”
The study pointed to quantitative easing and the resulting low interest rates for fueling a spike in real-estate prices. Residential real estate has been the biggest beneficiary with a value of $162 trillion.

China accounts for almost a quarter of the total value. Makes sense, considering the country contains about a fifth of the world’s population. The U.S., on the other hand, has only 5% of the population, but makes up 21% of global residential asset value.

On the commercial front, it’s even more pronounced. North America is home to almost half of the world’s commercial value, the study finds, while Europe makes up more than a quarter. South America, the Middle East and Africa combine for just 5%.

The study didn’t include the value of “informal neighborhood commercial properties,” like smaller shops and local workspaces. Savills explained that while they offer “huge potential for future investment as economies mature and real-estate markets develop within them,” they are almost impossible to value at a global level.


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Playboy Mansion listed on the market for the first time since the 1970s! Discover the home’s history.

At Jan 18, 2016

For the first time in over 40 years, the legendary Playboy Mansion, located on Charing Cross Road outside of Beverly Hills, is on the market. Built in the Golden Age of Hollywood, it is one of the few estates that has remained intact, staying true to its original formation. With its beautiful, yet unique H-shape, it is not surprising that this remarkable English Tudor style home has only been sold twice since its construction in the 1920’s.

Built for Broadway department store icon Arthur Letts, the magnificent estate was an illustration of the vision that Letts had for a new neighborhood to the west of Beverly Hills. Letts, who at the time was president of the Holmby Corporation, moved to the area after selling his father’s business in Hancock Park. He knew he needed to show potential investors that this new development would grow and exceed expectations, and to do that, he must build something extravagant. In essence, it was in that moment the foundation for the Holmby Hills community was formed.

Letts hired architect Arthur R. Kelly to design the 14,000 square foot house. Kelly let his creativity flourish when he choose to rearrange the layout of the home from the conventional house model to a more asymmetrical outline. While the design of the home itself was extraordinary, the Grand Hall was the interior’s masterpiece. The two-story room was lavishly decorated with solid oak paneling, marble floors and a richly carved double staircase.

In 1961, The Letts’ home was purchased by scientist and industrialist, Louis Statham. Statham was known for his inventions of rockets and satellites that aided space exploration as well as inventing life-saving medical devices. Louis and his wife Anne bought the home for a mere $110,200 and promptly renamed the home “The Statham House.”

In 1971, Playboy Enterprises bought the Statham House for a record breaking $1.05 million. It was the highest real estate transaction in Los Angeles at that time. Initially called the Playboy Mansion West, it was the second “bachelor pad” to be established by Playboy, with the other one located in the prestigious Near North Side in Chicago. Playboy eventually left behind their Chicago roots and turned their Holmby Hills manor into the Playboy headquarters.

For over 4 decades, Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner has called the Playboy Mansion home, both working and playing in the now 29,000 square foot residential space and 5 acres of pristine landscape. The Playboy Mansion has 29 rooms, including a wine cellar with a secret entranceway, a theater room with a built-in organ and a full gymnasium.

In addition to the amazing features of the home itself, throughout the grounds there is also a game house with the customary pool tables, pinball machines and Wurlitzer jukebox, a four-bed, two-bath guesthouse and of course, the famous swimming pool with an underground grotto built by Playboy after their purchase of the home. The Playboy estate is also one of the few private residences in Los Angeles that has a zoo license, and is called home by many exotic birds, monkeys, flamingoes and peacocks.

The Playboy Mansion is being sold by Hilton & Hyland, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate. If sold for the asking price, an incredible $200 million, it will once again be the largest transaction in Los Angeles history.

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Megan Fox, Brian Austin Green sell Bing Crosby’s carriage house in Toluca Lake -LA TIMES

At Jan 26, 2016

*Purchased by Paradigm Developers, a luxury real estate development firm by David Kramer and Todd DeMann

Actors Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green have sold their home in Toluca Lake for $2.6 million in an off-market sale.

The couple, who are in the process of divorcing, bought the house two years ago for $3.35 million, records show.

Built in 1936, the contemporary ranch-style house was originally singer Bing Crosby’s carriage house.

Extensively remodeled in 2008, the 6,710-square-foot house features raised ceilings with exposed beams, rows of skylights, a library and a rec room. A wall fireplace divides the open-plan living room and kitchen, which has an Australian opal granite-topped center island.

The master suite has his and hers bathrooms, a pair of walk-in closets and a lofted bonus room. There are four bedrooms and six bedrooms in all.

Outdoors, mature oaks and olive trees fill the acre setting. A saltwater swimming pool, a spa, a fire pit and a 563-square-foot pool house with a kitchen are within the grounds.

Fox, 29, is known for the “Transformers” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” action films. She will reprise her role as April O’Neill in the upcoming “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows,” due out this summer.

Green, 42, starred in the original “Beverly hills, 90210” series. “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” “Anger Management” and “Desperate Housewives” are among his other TV credits.


LA TIMES –  By Neal J. Leitereg

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